On Corporeal Punishment: A Moral Argument Against “Spanking” Children

To begin I want to preface my argument by saying that I will not be posting or referring the reader to any scientific studies, journals, etc.  My goal is to make a rational logical argument that the reader can either accept or reject.  Current studies in psychology and related fields suggest strongly that there is evidence for my position, but if the reader wishes to find those articles a quick Google search will suffice; I intend to appeal exclusively to the reader’s sense of logic and morality.

When I argue that children should not be spanked, hit, or physically punished I immediately, and without exception, run into this argument:  “My parents spanked me and I turned out fine”.  I am not making the argument that physical punishment, or as I will call it from here on out: corporeal punishment, always results in a child ending up “broken” or “damaged”.  I am not even arguing that corporeal punishment usually ends up damaging a child into adulthood. I was spanked and slapped as a child on a somewhat regular basis and I do not feel that I have been negatively effected. Although, admittedly, it would be absurd to suggest that there isn’t a significant amount of children who do end up damaged in some way based on corporeal punishment.  This is an important aspect of my appeal: you simply never know how physical punishment will effect any given child.  Some children are not bothered by it all, while others develop serious, lifelong neurosis because of it.  Even children in the same house with the same parents can react in totally different ways to corporeal punishment.   So by employing this form of punishment, you are taking an inherent risk as to how your child will react.

My second point is that physically punishing a child is usually a knee-jerk reaction.  You are overcome with anger and you strike out at your child.  This is obviously wrong, because your emotions dictate your action rather then contemplative reason.  Emotion is always something one should be weary of; our judicial system even has distinctions between crimes committed from the explicit basis of emotion referred to as “a crime of passion”, and those based on careful thought: “premeditated”.  What this implies is that humans reacting in the spur of the moment literally have less control over their behavior, and thus are partially excused for their crime in the form of a lesser sentence.   The chemical cascade of emotions makes a temporary slave of the human being.  This is not a basis from which parenting should be undertaken.  In order to be an effective and loving parent one must wait for the storm of emotion to pass and then make a decision on how to handle the situation.  When you have a child, the hospital makes you watch a movie warning of the dangers of allowing emotion to dictate your actions.  Any parents know what video I am talking about.  The video advises the parent to stay away from the child, even if he/she is crying, in order to regain control so the parent doesnt act in a dangerous way.  This emotional dictation must be so prevelent that hospitals feel the need to warn EVERY new parent of the dangers.

My third point is that violence is an ape-like response.  It is an evolutionary relic from our ancestral past that often becomes a burden in modern society.   Our anger, jealousy, envy, hatred, etc. are usually detrimental to our selves and others.  Just sit in a booking area of any police department on a saturday night, and watch how puppeted the “criminals” are by their emotions.  When you hit your child you are not being a creative parent ( a term I like to employ), rather you are being reactionary, and any child psychologist will warn against this.  It is especially absurd when a child is punished for hitting another child by being hit by their parent.  What does that paradox teach a child other then utter confusion?  Instead of resorting to ape-like violence, the intelligent parent should compose themselves, and then be creative with how you want to correct your child’s behavior.  This involves reason, deep thinking, intellectual adaptability, etc., but that is the job of a parent.  If you don’t have the capacity for such activities, you shouldn’t have a child in the first place.

My fourth point is that children, especially under the age of 4, HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IS SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOR.  Part of your job as a parent is to help them understand the world around them, not to physically assault them.  They look to you for guidance, having no other means by which to know how to behave in the world.  This is why corporeal punishment under the age of 4 is especially disgusting.  I would support any law that said corporeal violence, even a spanking that leaves no marks, to a child under 4 should result in the child being temporarily removed from the house until the parent takes anger-management classes.

My fifth and final point is an analogy, that seems controversial based on social norms, but which I always employ to show the absurdity of hitting a child.  The analogy is this:  Hitting a child as a form of punishment is morally equivalent  to a man hitting a women.  When a man hits a women we are all morally outraged, he  is socially scorned, and we view him as a monster.  But when a full grown man hits their 5 year old daughter for talking back, it is just a normal part of parenting. What the fuck?  A child is MORE vulnerable then a women.  A child cannot voluntarily leave the house to seek safety elsewhere.  A child cannot call the authorities and articulate the fact that they are being physically attacked.  When I employ this argument I always hear some variation of this counter-argument: spanking my child, or lightly slapping them in the mouth is not the same as a man punching his wife in the jaw.  This is true, but consider this: Lets say your child talks back to you and you pop them in the mouth; not hard enough to leave a mark, but hard enough for the child to stop talking and possibly cry.  Now what if a women says something to a man that he does not like and instead of punching her or leaving a mark, he just lightly pops her in the mouth so she stops talking.  Is that acceptable? No? Then why is it acceptable for a full grown adult to do it to a child? Same with spanking.  When a child is spanked it usually results in them crying, but not in bruises or cuts.  The lack of lacerations is seen as validation for the fact that the child was spanked the proper amount and not “excessively” enough to warrant a crime.  But if a woman does something her husband doesn’t like, and the husbands slaps her in her ass until she cries and runs to her room, but leaves no bruise or cut, is that acceptable? No? So again, I ask why is it okay for an adult (who is physically superior to a child) to do it to a child, but not a woman?

In conclusion,  I think it is morally wrong to hit your children AT ALL.  There is growing scientific research to suggest I am right, and my moral argument seems strong to me.  I welcome any and all criticism of my theory, but you must address my points effectively, and not just blather on about how your turned out fine.  If you are a parent, challenge yourself to become more creative with the way you teach your child about how to behave because, after all, that is what you are supposed to do: teach, not punish. Be a guider, not an abuser.  My daughter is 3 years old (just got through her ‘terrible twos’) and has NEVER been hit.  She is learning effectively how to discern between right and wrong and she is learning how to behave properly and to be polite.  All of this without ever laying a single violent hand upon her.

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2 thoughts on “On Corporeal Punishment: A Moral Argument Against “Spanking” Children

  1. Leon says:

    True talk, keep on brother!

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